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Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE on May 3, 2022 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Recent statements by Russian military authorities such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova. The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attributes and calls itself officially the Moldovan Republic of Dniestr. However, no other state, including the Russian Federation, has recognized it as an independent state. There are, however, some 1,500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria. Transnistria had some 706,000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less. Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad. Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel. The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova and those of the government of Transnistria, but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria. Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II efforts, informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated. The newly elected, in November 2020, President of Moldova, Ms. Maia Sandu, has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova. Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics – the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Presidents Maia Sandu (left) and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (right)

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt. Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria. In addition, there have been recently a number of rocket attacks, possibly by Ukrainian forces, on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting. While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova, the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 2, 2022 at 8:24 AM

By René Wadlow

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that “each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of nongovernmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk: The Way Ahead

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States, World Law on February 9, 2022 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

There are many dimensions to the current tensions on the Ukraine-Donbas-Russia frontiers, both geopolitical and domestic considerations. There are long historic and strategic aspects to the current crisis. Security crises are deeply influenced both by a sense of history and by current perceptions. There have been bilateral discussions between United States (U. S.) and Russian authorities, between Russian and French leaders, between Russian and Chinese leaders, between the Ukrainian leader and a number of others and multilateral discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), within NATO, at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and within the European Union. For the moment, there has been no de-escalation of tensions nor a lowering of troop levels.

Currently, there is only one permanent structure for multilateral negotiations on the Ukraine tensions – the “Normandy Format” which brings together the representatives of Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany primarily to negotiate on the status of the separatist People’s Republics.

The Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 agreed that the areas covered by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would not be separated from Ukraine but would be given a “Special Status” set out in a new Ukrainian Constitution. However, beyond some rather vague discussion on decentralization, the nature of the Special Status has not been agreed upon, and no Ukrainian government administrative measures have been put into place.

In the period since 2015, the socioeconomic situation in the two People’s Republics has gotten worse. Many people have left either for Ukraine or Russia. There are constant violations of the ceasefire agreements which are monitored by observers of the OSCE. Thus, in their December 15, 2021 report, the OSCE monitors noted that between December 10-12, there were 444 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 104 in the Luhansk region. However, the freedom of movement of the OSCE observers is restricted. The number of violations, usually exchanges of small arms fire, is probably higher.

Solving the Donbas aspect of the conflict on the basis of a real and vital autonomy and trans-frontier cooperation should be a top priority for action. The Association of World Citizens has always stressed the importance of developing appropriate forms of government as a crucial aspect of the resolution of armed conflicts. The Association has particularly highlighted the possibilities of con-federalism and the need for transfrontier cooperation. The Association was involved at the start of the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict in August 1992 and the first efforts at negotiations carried out in Geneva with representatives from Abkhazia who were in Geneva and officials from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thus, we know how a cycle of action-reaction can deepen a conflict and how difficult it is to reestablish structures of government once separation has been established.

The need to progress on the structure of Ukraine stands out sharply at this time when there are real possibilities of escalatory risks. There is a need for confidence-building measures reaching out to different layers of society in a cumulative process. Advances on the Special Status would be an important step in the deescalation of tensions. Discussions on the Special Status must be carried out by those living in Ukraine. However, government representatives as well as nongovernmental organizations in Russia, Germany, and France can also contribute actively. The new German Foreign Minister, the ecologist Annalena Baerbach, coming from a federalist-structured State with many local initiatives possible, may bring new visions to these discussions which are increasingly under way.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Ukraine-Donbas-Russian Frontier: Is a Nongovernmental Interposition Peace Team a Possibility?

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Nicaragua, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States on January 23, 2022 at 5:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Despite United States (U. S.)-Russian Federation discussions in Geneva and a full Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, there seems to be no advance toward a reduction of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian frontier. There are discussions at the United Nations (UN) Security Council in New York on what could be a U. S.-led response if there were a Russian intervention into Ukraine. While such a Russian intervention seems unlikely, the possibility of such an intervention is being seriously discussed in NATO government circles. Thus, it is opportune for nongovernmental organizations also to discuss possible measures to prevent conflict and reduce tensions.

(C) Taras Gren

One possibility, inspired by the efforts of the Shanti Sena (Peace Army) developed by followers of Mahatma Gandhi in India is to place some nongovernmental teams on the frontier in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to “cool off” and negotiate. One such effort in which I was directly involved as the representative to the UN in Geneva of the Peace Brigades International (PBI) was the effort of a team of the newly created PBI in 1981 on the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier.

At the time, it was thought that U. S. troops stationed in Honduras might cross the frontier to attack the Sandinista-leftist government in Nicaragua or actively help the anti-Sandinista “Contras” to do so. A PBI-related group from California – the Jalapa Brigade, already created – was able to move to the frontier on short notice. At the time that the Jalapa Brigade was put into place, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the UN in Geneva was a former student of mine, and his brother, also a former student of mine, was the legal advisor to the President of Nicaragua. Through the Ambassador, I was able to inform the Central American Missions to the UN as to the aims and role of the Peace Brigades.

In the end, the U. S. military did not cross the frontier. Perhaps it never intended to do so. It may also have been that the interposition of U. S. civilians with a good number of organizational contacts helped to weigh in the U. S. military decision-making process.

Members of the Gulf Peace Camp

There have been other such interposition efforts. One was the Gulf Peace Team created at the time of the 1990 Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. The aim of the 73-member Peace Team in their statement of purpose was to be an “international multicultural team working for peace and opposing any form of armed aggression by setting up one or more international peace camps between the opposing armed forces. Our object will be to withstand nonviolently any armed aggression by any party to the present Gulf dispute.” However, on January 27, 1991, the peace camp was closed by Iraq, because the authorities had “decided that the continued presence of the camp was a security risk”.

This interposition approach by nongovernmental organizations is logistically and politically very difficult to accomplish. There are economic and logistic resources required and, more importantly, the need to raise enough volunteers who are mature, culturally sensitive, and analytically-minded to achieve a critical mass that would make a difference in the decision-making of the military present. There is also the need to keep unity of purpose within the teams if they have not worked together before.

The 100,000 Russian troops are at the frontier. Can peace team interposition be created quickly?

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Qu’on le veuille ou non, un seul monde et le droit à la migration

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on December 28, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Deux ans déjà, deux ans d’une guerre mondiale qui semble interminable, une Troisième Guerre Mondiale non entre deux ou plusieurs alliances d’Etats souverains, ou contre un envahisseur extraterrestre comme dans certains films ou séries de science-fiction, mais contre un virus – un coronavirus, le SARS-CoV-2 responsable de la COronaVIrus Disease of 2019 ou Covid-19. Après la souche originelle dite de Wuhan, le monde a découvert les variants, d’abord affublés de gentilés (anglais, sud-africain, indien) puis renommés selon l’alphabet grec : Alpha, Beta, Delta …  Et maintenant Omicron.

La lutte progresse mais la pandémie sait contre-attaquer, comme avec Omicron. Hélas, l’inégalité vaccinale entre pays et régions du monde, couplée aux décisions scientifiquement absurdes de certains gouvernements, se fait pour le virus une alliée inespérée.

L’histoire nous l’enseigne, lorsqu’une crise mondiale éclate et se prolonge, ce n’est pas après qu’elle a pris fin qu’il faut envisager l’avenir, mais pendant même qu’elle se produit, et faire de ses projets son but réel de guerre. L’histoire nous l’enseigne, oui, et l’an prochain verra le quatre-vingtième anniversaire des Nations Unies, non pas de l’organisation internationale créée en 1945 à San Francisco – également berceau de l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) – mais de l’alliance militaire des pays combattant l’Allemagne nazie, l’Italie fasciste et le Japon. Une alliance militaire qui avait retenu les leçons de l’échec de la Société des Nations et compris, à l’avenant, qu’un combat armé ne vaut rien s’il n’est porteur d’un projet politique pour un monde en paix, donc, un monde plus uni.

Un monde plus uni …  Que certains partis politiques ici ou là le veuillent ou non, c’est ce que produira inéluctablement cette pandémie, après une épreuve dont aucun continent sur terre n’aura été épargné. Et même si cela dérange ces partis xénophobes de divers pays et continents, là encore, ce monde ne pourra plus regarder de la même manière le sujet dont ils ont fait leur fonds de commerce pendant le demi-siècle écoulé – la migration.

La forteresse WENA

Si c’est littéralement le monde entier qui est touché, tout comme par la Covid-19, par le virus de la xénophobie qu’aucun vaccin ne vient enrayer, le centre mondial de l’épidémie est bien la WENA (Western Europe and North America, Europe occidentale et Amérique du Nord). Depuis le début du siècle, avec des entrées au gouvernement en Autriche et en Italie notamment, ainsi qu’une présence au second tour de l’élection présidentielle en France et un résultat électoral sans précédent aux Pays-Bas, l’extrême droite xénophobe n’a cessé de croître en WENA, jusqu’à fusionner au Canada avec la droite traditionnelle incarnée par le Parti conservateur. Mais, après des reflux ici et là, l’année 2015 est venue lui ouvrir grand les portes jusqu’alors closes du pouvoir.

Après ce que d’aucuns appelaient la «crise migratoire» de l’été, lorsque migrants et réfugiés avaient eu l’impudence de venir déranger la baignade et la bronzette des Européens en accostant sur la rive sud de la Méditerranée, un exode vite réduit par certains à une attaque envers l’Occident de Daesh, le soi-disant «État islamique en Irak et en Syrie» qui avait déjà en janvier fait couler le sang à Paris, la Grande-Bretagne suivit sans mal l’année suivante un UKIP déchaîné contre des hordes d’envahisseurs vers le vote du Brexit. A des milliers de kilomètres de là, loin des rivages du désespoir, un Donald Trump donné perdant d’avance remporta contre toute attente la Maison Blanche en évoquant, entre autres, un mur géant le long de la frontière mexicaine censé bloquer toute immigration clandestine. En 2017, bien que largement vaincue en fin de compte, l’extrême droite française atteignit une nouvelle fois les marches de l’Élysée. En 2018, les électeurs italiens consacrèrent Matteo Salvini. Il ne suffisait plus d’une «forteresse Europe», le temps était venu d’une «forteresse WENA», à bâtir du plus ironiquement sur des plans fournis par Moscou, où le pouvoir inspire et parfois finance les partis d’extrême droite comme de gauche radicale, antagonistes mais unanimes pour saper la démocratie libérale.

Ile de Lesbos (Grèce), 11 octobre 2015 (C) Antonio Masiello

Ils savent ce qui leur fait peur, les tenants de la forteresse WENA. Ils le désignent par deux mots – le grand remplacement, celui d’une population européenne blanche et chrétienne qui n’existe que dans leur imaginaire par des hordes d’Arabes et d’Africains musulmans. Leur imaginaire où trône Le Camp des Saints, roman publié en 1973 par Jean Raspail et qui, en écho à l’antisémitisme délirant des Turner Diaries adulés par les suprémacistes blancs des Etats-Unis, décrit la chute de l’Occident blanc devant une invasion venue des pays du Sud. Loin d’avoir été oublié avec le temps, Le Camp des Saints inspire encore aujourd’hui l’extrême droite française ainsi que des proches de Donald Trump.

Personne au sud ne prône un «grand remplacement», concept qui n’existe donc qu’en WENA. Et pour cause, il ne pouvait venir d’ailleurs. S’il est une région au monde dont les pays ont, dans le passé, débarqué de force sur des rivages lointains, usé de la force pour imposer leur présence puis, in fine, leurs institutions, leur religion et leur culture, ce sont bien ceux de la WENA à travers le colonialisme, imités plus tard, tragique ironie, par l’URSS «anticolonialiste» sous couvert de soutien idéologique et pour les pires effets, dont deux en Afghanistan ayant pour noms les Talibans et Al-Qaïda.

Il n’y a qu’eux qui y pensent, eux pour qui la relation avec l’autre n’est que haine ou mépris, et pour certains, violence et guerre où l’on ne peut être que vainqueur ou vaincu. Dans leur immense majorité, celles et ceux qui, au sud, veulent gagner la WENA y recherchent tout au contraire son mode de vie, ses opportunités de travail et de construction d’une vie nouvelle, ses libertés que leur refusent les gouvernements de leurs pays d’origine, se servant la plupart du temps de la culture traditionnelle locale comme d’un alibi et nourrissant ainsi les fantasmes des xénophobes en WENA, trop contents de prendre en tenaille des migrants et réfugiés déjà pourchassés par leurs propres gouvernants.

Nigel Farage, chef du parti UKIP, agitant le spectre de la migration pour amener les Britanniques à voter pour le Brexit en 2016 (C) @epkaufm (Twitter), licensed under Public Domain

La WENA a peur. Elle a peur de tous ces gens qui voient en elle un exemple pour leurs propres dirigeants, peur de toutes ces victimes qui l’appellent à agir pour leur permettre de vivre en paix chez eux ou, si elle s’y refuse, à les admettre au moins sur son territoire. Elle a peur aussi de ses propres enfants, ceux dont les parents sont eux-mêmes venus d’ailleurs ou dont les ancêtres plus lointains y ont été amenés de force, notamment comme esclaves. Elle a peur des Black Lives Matter et autres mouvements exigeant la justice pour qui, né ou élevé dans la WENA, s’y voit rejeté car porteur de cet ailleurs qui la tétanise.

Ses dirigeants ont peur, et ceux qui voudraient l’être aussi. Délogé de la présidence américaine, Donald Trump ne désarme pas. En France, terre de l’adoption de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme en 1948, l’extrême droite se dédouble en deux partis rivalisant de peur et de haine d’autrui, tandis que le parti héritier de celui du Général de Gaulle parle arrêt de l’immigration et sortie de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme, même la gauche se laissant tenter par la facilité xénophobe en s’en prenant par exemple aux transferts d’argent de travailleurs migrants vers leurs familles au pays.

Mise à mal par l’exemple russe de la démocratie illibérale de pure façade et celui de l’autoritarisme de marché donné par la Chine, la WENA n’est plus, elle le sait, maîtresse du monde. Devenir la forteresse WENA ne résoudra pourtant, pour elle, aucun problème. Fantasmer n’est pas empêcher les difficultés, encore moins les surmonter mais bien les rendre hors de contrôle. A travers le monde entier, migration et recherche d’asile génèrent des drames sans lien avec les peurs irraisonnées des opinions occidentales. La WENA peut bien rêver d’isolement, mais tout comme ceux que crée la Covid-19, les drames de la migration ont aboli les frontières et uni le monde – pour le pire.

Le monde uni en fait refuse de l’être en droit

Déjà tourmentée par ses cauchemars de « grand remplacement » et les capitulations de ses démocrates supposés devant les vrais populistes, la WENA tente l’impossible en s’obstinant à séparer strictement les migrants, en quête d’une vie meilleure, et les réfugiés, qui fuient une persécution potentiellement mortelle. Il est pourtant de moins en moins possible de chercher une vie meilleure sans fuir aussi une certaine forme d’oppression, même en filigrane, là où un réfugié peut certes avoir dû laisser derrière lui une vie confortable mais à laquelle a mis fin une soudaine et brutale menace. Et le mouvement des demandeurs d’asile s’exerce toujours bien davantage vers la WENA qu’à partir d’elle …   Mais qui érige la peur en système s’en soucie bien peu. Tant pis pour les tragédies qui en sortent et tant pis pour le mauvais exemple ainsi envoyé au reste du monde, qui ne le reçoit que trop clairement.

Toute cette année, l’AWC n’a pu que le constater en intervenant sur des situations où les frontières des Etats ne s’ouvrent que pour laisser entrer l’oppression venue d’ailleurs. Entre la Pologne, Etat membre de l’Union européenne (UE), et le Belarus sous la tyrannie d’Aleksandr Loukachenko, des migrants et réfugiés venus du Moyen-Orient sont bloqués hors du monde, utilisés par Minsk tels des pions contre l’UE et refoulés par Varsovie qui craint un afflux si elle laisse entrer un petit groupe de personnes. A l’intérieur de l’UE même, le Danemark où l’extrême droite inquiète un gouvernement social-démocrate restreint encore ses lois sur l’asile et ordonne aux réfugiés de Syrie de rentrer chez eux, comme si la fin des combats actifs dans certaines régions du pays rendait plus sûr, et meilleur, le régime tyrannique de Bachar el-Assad. Et c’est à toute l’UE que se pose, comme au monde entier, la question de l’accueil des réfugiés d’Afghanistan depuis le retour au pouvoir le 15 août dernier de la milice islamiste des Talibans, dont la première cible est depuis un quart de siècle toujours la même – les femmes, premières à devoir fuir et premières à chercher asile.

Manifestation de soutien aux réfugiés à Berlin le 31 août 2014 (C) Montecruz Foto

Cherchant toujours plus à fermer ses frontières à qui veut y entrer, la WENA n’a en revanche aucun état d’âme à les ouvrir grand pour en faire sortir l’inspiration du refus de l’autre. Et ça marche.

En Amérique latine où se produit la deuxième plus grave crise de demandeurs d’asile au monde, celle du Venezuela où quiconque le peut fuit la dictature de Nicolas Maduro soutenue par Moscou, le Pérou qui accueille le plus grand nombre d’exilés vénézuéliens refuse aux enfants son statut de «Migration Humanitaire», plongeant donc des mineurs déjà déracinés dans une invivable inexistence officielle. En Égypte, où déjà sévit une répression intense, des réfugiés de conflits africains comme celui de l’Érythrée se voient, en dépit de l’évidence même, déboutés de leurs demandes d’asile et placés dans l’expectative d’un rapatriement forcé à tout moment. En Russie, une réfugiée d’Ouzbékistan privée d’un jour à l’autre de son statut après avoir dénoncé les manquements de Moscou à ses obligations en la matière a fini sa course en détention dans un aéroport, «hors du monde», comme emmurée «dans la prison des frontières», selon la Complainte du Partisan, l’autre chant de la Résistance française pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

Qu’attendre d’autre d’un monde qui s’entête à ne pas comprendre que, bien que composé d’États souverains, il est désormais uni dans l’épreuve et doit donc le devenir aussi pour la vaincre ? Un monde uni de fait qui refuse de l’être de droit, ce n’est pas nouveau dans l’histoire et on en sait les conséquences. En 1914, c’est un monde où l’Europe faisait la loi mais où une forme de mondialisation, économique et technologique, existait déjà qui est entré en guerre, car sa politique était restée peu ou prou celle du Congrès de Vienne, là où les nations ayant vaincu l’Empire français de Napoléon Ier avaient décidé entre elles du sort des autres. Pour certains la Grande Guerre, pour d’autres «la der des der», le conflit mondial sorti d’un ordre international périmé allait certes engendrer la première organisation politique internationale de l’histoire, la Société des Nations, mais cette dernière allait s’avérer elle aussi en retard sur son temps, incapable d’arrêter les ambitions italiennes en Éthiopie puis celles plus dévastatrices et meurtrières encore d’Adolf Hitler et du Troisième Reich allemand. Ce n’est qu’en combattant le fléau d’un temps en son temps, en créant contre Hitler une alliance militaire prenant le nom de Nations Unies, que le monde libre allait réussir à vaincre le Reich génocidaire et créer une nouvelle organisation, celle que nous connaissons encore aujourd’hui – l’Organisation des Nations Unies.

Voir le passé avec l’œil du présent, l’historien le dira, il faut se l’interdire. Mais l’inverse n’est pas plus souhaitable, et de 1914, l’historien pourra le dire encore. Que conclure alors d’un monde qui, en proie à une pandémie qui a déchiré les frontières, s’y enferme comme en des murailles et se le voit enseigner par la région même qui, depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, symbolisait la liberté ?

(C) U.S. National Archives & DVDs

Qu’on le veuille ou non

Un monde sans frontières est aussi peu probable qu’un «grand remplacement» en WENA, peu probable et, pour nous, une fausse bonne idée. L’AWC défend depuis le départ une Citoyenneté Mondiale accessible à toutes et tous, acceptable par toutes et tous, fondée sur un principe simple mais qui semble si difficile à accepter : étant toutes et tous natifs et habitants de la planète Terre, il est du devoir de chacun(e) de la protéger ainsi que son peuple, notre peuple, l’humanité, et accepter cet état d’esprit est entrer dans une Citoyenneté Mondiale qui s’exerce en supplément de la citoyenneté nationale, non à la place, d’autant qu’il n’existe au niveau planétaire aucune structure reconnue par les États qui permette une telle substitution. Même la citoyenneté de l’UE n’est acquise que par la citoyenneté nationale de l’un de ses États membres, se vouloir citoyen(ne) de l’Union de manière directe et exclusive étant impossible.

Pour autant, et l’histoire ne va pas dans une direction autre, qu’est-ce qui oblige les frontières à s’ériger en remparts, a fortiori contre un ennemi inexistant et chimérique ? Au nom de quoi les États souverains devraient-ils être des citadelles ? Et surtout, comment exercer dans de telles conditions la moindre Citoyenneté Mondiale alors que le sort de toute la planète et toute l’humanité nous le commande ? C’est ce que l’AWC a toujours défendu et, aujourd’hui, ce que l’on pouvait refuser comme n’étant qu’un simple axiome de notre part est devenu, plus que jamais, un fait prouvé. Même si un autre enseignement de la Covid-19 est, hélas, que les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants.

Négateurs du virus, promoteurs de thérapies inefficaces, d’aucuns auront rejeté l’évidence nue face au SARS-CoV-2. Chefs d’État ou de gouvernement, qu’ils se nomment Trump, Johnson ou Bolsonaro, ils auront tous fini par rencontrer ce virus qu’ils niaient ou minimisaient, finissant ainsi par prouver au contraire son existence et le besoin absolu de s’en protéger. D’autres poursuivent aujourd’hui le travail de sape de ces derniers, parfois en y laissant leur vie. Les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants, mais Lénine le savait, «les faits sont têtus».

Ces politiques migratoires et ces injustices qui nous ont amenés à intervenir, nous ne les avons pas inventées. L’AWC n’a pas le temps, encore moins le goût, de fabriquer des problèmes, trop occupée qu’elle est à tenter de résoudre ceux dont elle vient à avoir connaissance. Une vision des frontières, de l’étranger et de la migration qui n’est plus adaptée à son temps, c’est un problème, majeur, que nous ne résoudrons jamais seuls et qui demande une implication littéralement universelle. D’autant qu’il n’est pas sans rencontrer l’autre problème majeur du moment, le coronavirus. Si ce n’est par la coupable méfiance vis-à-vis de traitements venus de l’extérieur et/ou par la tout aussi coupable négligence alimentant l’inégalité vaccinale entre nations, plusieurs fois dénoncée de concert par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé et le Fonds monétaire international, comment expliquer l’apparition des variants Delta puis Omicron respectivement en Inde puis en Afrique du Sud ? On empêchera des êtres humains de quitter leur pays, on les empêchera d’entrer dans celui qu’ils espèrent atteindre, mais des gardes-frontières n’arrêtent pas un virus. Les frontières non plus, et voir en elles une solution soit à la migration tant redoutée soit à la Covid-19, c’est rendre impossible tant une migration ordonnée et humaine que la fin de la pandémie.

Un seul monde, ce n’est plus un slogan, c’est maintenant un fait. Que la WENA vous nomme un migrant si vous y venez ou si vous allez et venez en dehors d’elle (le terme «réfugié» n’ayant plus rien d’automatique, même devant un danger avéré), ou un expatrié si vous en venez et la quittez, vous serez toujours soumis aux lois nationales sur la migration et c’est là, partout, un domaine régalien, privilège absolu de l’État. Mais si ces lois sont adoptées et/ou appliquées les yeux grands fermés à la marche du monde, votre sort ne regardera bientôt plus seulement votre État de provenance et/ou d’arrivée. Pas plus que votre nationalité ne fera quelque différence si vous êtes positif à la Covid-19, où que vous soyez. Les deux questions seront mondiales.

Le droit absolu à la migration, sans demander l’avis de l’État d’arrivée, n’existera probablement jamais. Pour autant, le droit à la migration, celui d’être accueilli dignement, d’être ainsi traité même si l’on doit ensuite repartir et, certes, de n’être en aucun cas traité en migrant lorsque l’on est demandeur d’asile, peut et doit être un droit absolu, pour d’élémentaires raisons d’humanité dont même une catastrophe planétaire claire et présente n’autorise pas l’oubli.

Qu’on le veuille ou non, il n’existe plus qu’un seul monde. S’il prend au sérieux les malades de la Covid-19, alors il n’a pas d’excuse pour ne pas prendre au sérieux les migrants. Au moment où la deuxième année de la pandémie s’achève, s’il est déjà temps de prendre une bonne résolution, alors, que ce soit celle d’y parvenir enfin. Et immuniser les consciences contre nos coupables indifférences.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

An Unused but not Forgotten Standard of World Law

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 10, 2021 at 10:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Genocide is the most extreme consequence of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin –cide (to kill) (1). The policies and war crimes of the Nazi German government were foremost on the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention, but the policy was not limited to the Nazis (2).

The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the efforts to develop a system of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order for all members of the human family to live in dignity. Four articles are at the heart of this Convention and are here quoted in full to understand the process of implementation proposed by the Association of World Citizens (AWC), especially of the need for an improved early warning system.

Article I

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Unlike most humanitarian international law which sets out standards but does not establish punishment, Article III sets out that the following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Numerous reports have reached the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) of actual, or potential, situations of genocide: mass killings; cases of slavery and slavery-like practices, in many instances with a strong racial, ethnic, and religious connotation — with children as the main victims, in the sense of article II (b) and (c). Despite factual evidence of these genocides and mass killings as in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and in other places, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has called for any action under article VIII of the Convention.

As Mr. Nicodème Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well-founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

Raphael Lemkin

Yet the need for speedy preventive measures has been repeatedly underlined by UN Officials. On December 8, 1998, in his address at UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War — the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust — could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time — this decade even — has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide — the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins — is now a word of our time, too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

In her address Translating words into action to the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1998, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, declared “The international community’s record in responding to, let alone preventing, gross human rights abuses does not give grounds for encouragement. Genocide is the most flagrant abuse of human rights imaginable. Genocide was vivid in the minds of those who framed the Universal Declaration, working as they did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The slogan then was ‘never again’. Yet genocide and mass killing have happened again — and have happened before the eyes of us all — in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the globe.”

We need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially directed massacres of civilians of whatever numbers cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”. The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement — whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors, including political movements — to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State, or the population of a State in its entirety, just because they belong to certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. It is also evident that, at the present time, in a globalized world, even local conflicts have a direct impact on international peace and security in general. Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic, and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the Radio Mille Collines, perhaps that premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the UN to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from nongovernmental organizations, the Secretary-General has named an individual advisor on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one advisor among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service the CERD. Through its urgent procedure mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.


Notes
1) Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944).
2) For a good overview, see: Samantha Power. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
3) E/CN.4/Sub.2/1778/416, Para 614


Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Concerted Efforts Against Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Modern slavery, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on July 30, 2021 at 10:01 AM

By René Wadlow

On July 30, there should be a worldwide concerted effort against trafficking in persons. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/68/192 in 2012 set out July 30 as a day to review and reaffirm the need for action against the criminal global networks dealing in trafficking of persons. The trafficking of human beings reveals the hunger of the global economy for human labor and the disrespect for human dignity. Drugs, guns, illegal immigration are the nightmare avenues of how the poor world becomes integrated into the global economy. These are intricate networks and are intertwined with interests in business and politics.

A recent UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the crucial human rights crises today.

From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities – especially women and girls – are attracted by the prospects of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress or factory worker. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues, casual acquaintances, and even family members. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops, and men to work in the « three D jobs » – dirty, difficult and dangerous.

Despite clear international standards such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, there is poor implementation, limited governmental infrastructure dedicated to the issue. There is also a tendency to criminalize the victims.

Since 2002, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has collected information on trafficking in persons. The International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization – especially in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention – and the International Organization for Migration – all have anti-trafficking programs, but they have few «people on the ground» dealing directly with the issue.

Thus, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens which has raised the issue in human rights bodies in Geneva. There are three aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other two aspects depend on the efforts of NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which persons – especially children and women – are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of a country and among marginalized populations. Socio-economic and development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is psychological healing. Very often persons who have been trafficked have had a disrupted or violent family life. They may have a poor idea of their self-worth. The victim’s psychological health is often ignored by governments. Victims can suffer a strong psychological shock that disrupts their psychological integrity. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimention through teaching meditation and yoga. There is a need to create adult education facilities so that persons may continue a broken educational cycle.

We must not underestimate the difficulties and dangers which exist in the struggle against trafficking in persons nor the hard efforts which are needed for the psychological healing of victims. July 30 can be a rededication for our efforts.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Letting the Soul of Europe Drown on the Shores of Libya

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 26, 2021 at 6:15 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

Was Libya ever a part of the 2011 Arab Spring? If the term defines solely the ouster of a dictator who had been there for decades, yes, it was. After 41 years of autocratic rule, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was irreversibly overthrown. If the Arab Spring also means the transformation of nonviolent protests into all-out armed conflict, then again, Libya qualifies as a people’s revolution, following the path successfully taken by Tunisia, that ended up as a civil war between the Jamahiriya, ruled from Tripoli by Gaddafi, and the Qatar-backed National Transitional Council based in Benghazi. Ultimately, if it means frustration at the outcome of the fight, then Libya was indeed a part of the 2011 Arab Spring, remembering how unbearably long it took the rival factions there to create a Government of National Unity, after years of competition between two, sometimes three, would-be national leaders.

Another way that Libya – tragically – qualifies as part of the 2011 Arab Spring is the ever-growing phenomenon of harraga. In Algerian Arabic, harrag means “the one who burns something”, and in Algeria where French is an unofficial second language, overlooking a red light while driving a car is “brûler un feu rouge”, literally “burning a red light”. When harrag thus refers to anyone breaching a legal restriction, its plural harraga has come to mean “those who burn the border” – migrants who leave the country without permission, either from their home government or the authorities of the country they are traveling to, in both cases risking their very lives.

One reason the West reacted sometimes coolly to the end of decades-long dictatorships in North Africa was that, while in power, Ben Ali, Gaddafi, and Mubarak enforced strict regulations on migration to the northern bank of the Mediterranean, keeping their respective peoples away from both personal freedom and European border posts altogether. The fall of each of the three regimes meant the end of a controlled emigration that used to suit European needs nicely, and ten years later, one of the three countries stands out as the most graphic and tragic embodiment of the harraga phenomenon – Libya.

Yet Libyans do not make up the bulk of those vowing to reach Europe at any cost. Those vowing to reach Europe from Libya are migrants and refugees from other countries in Africa, with some foreign residents who had lived in Libya for many years but are now feeling insecure and want to move on abroad. Others still, coming from Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and Tunisia, do want to settle down in Libya. But for those whose destination is Europe, when failure does not come by drowning into the Mediterranean, it means a fate some would deem even worse.

Inhumanity in the name of the European Union

According to a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), North Africa is now offering three routes for migration to Europe – the Western Route from Morocco into Spain, the Eastern Route from Turkey into Greece, and the Central Route from Libya into Italy. Unsurprisingly, the Central Route is the most active, preferred by many refugees and migrants. They come from West, East, and Central Africa, some of them fleeing extreme poverty back home and the others running from war and persecution. Although Europe has the oldest and best-functioning human rights court in the world, nostalgic as it is of its unenviable dictator friends in North Africa, it will not lift a finger to help these people yearning for the freedom and dignity that Europeans enjoy them every day.

In a newly released report entitled ‘No One Will Look for You’: Forcibly Returned from Sea to Abusive Detention in Libya, Amnesty International explains how “men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya” get subjected to an array of human rights violations in detention centers, such as “torture and other ill-treatment, cruel and inhuman detention conditions, extortion and forced labor” as well as “invasive, humiliating and violent strip-searches”, when not rape.

The organization sheds light on the role played since 2020 by the Libyan Government’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) in sexual abuses against women.

But, in the words of Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, “The report also highlights the ongoing complicity of European states that have shamefully continued to enable and assist Libyan coastguards in capturing people at sea and forcibly returning them to the hellscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure.” Consequently, Amnesty urges “European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya”.

Blocking unauthorized migration from North Africa to Europe was one thing, when many in Western countries deemed Arab peoples unable to sustain democracy, thus supporting dictators who both reined in their constituents at home and deterred them from seeking a better life, let alone freedom, abroad. Ten years later, as a stifled democracy proves unable to protect Tunisia from a deadly wave of Covid-19 and Egypt appears locked in an absolute monarchy in all but name, Libya has set a course on the abandonment of all standards of human decency, not just in the treatment of prisoners but in knowingly punishing people just for seeking a new life on the other side of the Mediterranean.

The European ideal betrayed

It is no secret that European leaders, however progressive and opposed to extreme right populists they claim to be, have long renounced any form of firmness toward these. No more dismissing the far right by comparing it to pre-World War II fascist movements; its trademark xenophobic rhetoric has now become trendy. Leaders who once blasted the extreme right can now be heard calling for tighter border controls, making life harder for those immigrants who do get admitted, and demoting asylum from an internationally recognized right to a temporary commodity granted at the pleasure of the state.

Denmark, once hailed as a model Scandinavian social democracy with a liberal line of thought, is now considering sending Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland and “outsourcing” other asylum-seekers to Rwanda, a distant central African country with no geographical, historical, or other ties to Denmark whatsoever. In Britain, Home Secretary Priti Patel has proposed a host of nonsensical, dangerous measures to keep undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from reaching the country, such as the creation of an offshore processing center in … Rwanda. Not the finest tributes to the scores of Rwandans trying to flee the ongoing genocide back in 1994 one might think of.

Once conservative, moderate, liberal, or progressive democrats, the leaders of Europe have now joined the extreme right if only in its crusade to spread an insane fear of millions of Arab and African Muslim migrants taking over Europe, replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with the Sharia, imposing the Islamic veil on all women, and flogging to death anyone who swallows a drop of alcohol. So much for the European dream of Konrad Adenauer and Winston Churchill, Frenchmen Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, and Italians Alcide de Gasperi and Altiero Spinelli – the latter’s name being part also of the history of the World Citizen and World Federalist movements.

As the motto of the European Union (EU) shifts from “United in Diversity” to “Freedom within, Fortress without”, Libya stands out as the most graphic, horrendous illustration of EU duplicity in championing human values at home, especially when opposing a Donald Trump in the USA or brutal leaders in China and Nicaragua, while condoning the total loss of humanity in North Africa where Libyan government agents keep its borders safe from – imagined – hordes of invaders poised to feast on Europe’s riches and force an Al-Qaida- or ISIS-like reactionary vision of Islam on all Europeans. That too is a sign, possibly the most important one, that when it comes to migration, European leaders are now being guided by the extreme right’s ideology, pretending to use facts but being really based on fantasy.

Europe must continue to stand for hope

It is no fantasy that people are dying at sea while trying to reach Europe. It is no fantasy that others, also trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, are getting caught by the Libyan authorities and forcibly brought back to the country. It is no fantasy that, held in detention centers even though they have no crime to answer for, people are ill-treated, beaten, raped, all but killed, just because they tried to get to Europe. It is no fantasy that as many blatant violations of the European Convention on Human Rights are being committed while the EU, at best, turns a blind eye and, at worst, lends its support.

Regional integration as Europe has known it since World War II, including EU expansion after the end of the Warsaw Pact, cannot be allowed to result in such barbarity. Setting such a bad example will only be detrimental to the ongoing experiments toward regional integration in other parts of the world, obviously starting with Africa. Ultimately, the very idea of World Citizenship will be endangered too, should some raise the possibility of supranational integration, and accordingly global governance of any kind, leading to such brutal, inhuman conducts of that nature with literally nowhere to run.

Europe as we know it was born among the ruins of World War II. Neither its regional institutions nor its national governments, let alone its governmental partners overseas, can possibly let it drown on the shores of Libya, where its leaders from Rome up to Copenhagen are making the EU lose all honor, letting down both those in Libya hoping for a better future and their own citizens at home by nurturing them in fear when they should be taught pride, courage, and solidarity, both toward one another and with others in distress at the doorsteps of the Union.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Antonio Gramsci: A Cultural Base for Positive Action

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Literature, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:54 PM

By René Wadlow

Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 24, 1937) was an Italian Socialist and then Communist editor who is best known for his notebooks of reflections that he wrote while in prison. (1) Gramsci grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia and saw the poor conditions of the impoverished peasants there. He studied just before the First World War at the University of Turin at a time when industry, especially the Fiat auto company was starting. Gramsci became concerned with the conditions of the new industrial working class. When the First World War started, he was asked to join a new Socialist newspaper that had started in Turin.

Antonio Gramsci

In 1921, in part due to the Russian Revolution, the Italian Communist Party was born. Some of the Socialists, including Gramsci, joined the new party, and Gramsci became an editor of the Communist newspaper. In 1922, he went to Russia as a delegate of the Italian Communist Party to a convention of Communist Parties from different parts of the world.

Also in 1922, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power and quickly began a crackdown on the Communists and other opposition movements. In 1926, after a failed attempt on Mussolini’s life, there was a massive crackdown on Communists. Although he had nothing to do with the effort to kill Mussolini, but as a Communist deputy to the national Parliament, Gramsci was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His health, which had never been strong, deteriorated in prison. On April 27, 1937 he died, aged 46.

While in prison, he wrote his ideas in notebooks which were censored by the prison authorities. Then the notebooks were passed on to family members. Gramsci had to be careful about how he expressed his ideas. The notebooks were published only after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of the Fascist government. Thus, Gramsci was never able to discuss or clarify his views. Nevertheless, his prison writings have been widely read and discussed.

Benito Mussolini

The concept most associated with Gramsci is the idea of “hegemony”. Hegemony is constructed through a complex series of struggles. Hegemony cannot be constructed once and for all since the balance of social forces on which it rests is continually evolving. Class structures related to the mode of production is obviously one area of struggle – the core of the Marxist approach. However, what is new in Gramsci is his emphasis on the cultural, ideological, and moral dimensions of the struggle for hegemony.

For Gramsci, hegemony cannot be economic alone. There must be a cultural battle to transform the popular mentality. He asks, “How it happens that in all periods, there co-exist many systems and currents of philosophical thought and how these currents are born, how they are diffused and why in the process of diffusion they fracture along certain lines and in certain directions.”

Gramsci was particularly interested in the French Revolution and its follow up. Why were the revolutionary ideas not permanently in power but rather were replaced by those of Napoleon, only to return later? Gramsci put an emphasis on what is called today “the civil society” – all the groups and forces not directly related to government: government administration, the military, the police.  There can be a control of the government, but such control: can be replaced if the civil society’s values and zeitgeist (world view) are not modified in depth. There is a slow evolution of mentalities from one value system to another. For progress to be permanent, one needs to influence and then control those institutions – education, culture, religion, folklore – that create the popular zeitgeist. He was unable to return to the USSR to see how Stalin developed the idea of hegemony.

The intellectual contribution of Gramsci has continued in the work of Edward Said on how the West developed its ideas about the Middle East. (2) Likewise, his influence is strong in India in what are called “subaltern studies” – what those people left out of official histories think. As someone noted, “I believe firmly that the history of ideas is the key to the history of deeds.”

Notes

(1) Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes) (New York: Columbia University Press); Antonio Gramsci, Prison Letters (London: Pluto Press, 1996)

(2) See Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Pitirim Sorokin: The Renewal of Humanity

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Europe, Literature, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM

By René Wadlow

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 21, was concerned, especially in the period after the Second World War, with the relation between the values and attitudes of the individual and their impact on the wider society. His key study Society, Culture and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics (1947) traced the relations between the development of the personality, the wider cultural values in which the personality was formed, and the structures of the society.

Pitirim Sorokin

The two World Wars convinced him that humanity was in a period of transition, that the guideline of earlier times had broken down and had not yet been replaced by a new set of values and motivations. To bring about real renewal, one had to work at the same time on the individual personality, on cultural values as created by art, literature, education, and on the social framework. One had to work on all three at once, not one after the other as some who hope that inner peace will produce outer peace. In his Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), he stressed the fact that “if we want to raise the moral standards of large populations, we must change correspondingly the mind and behavior of the individuals making up these populations, and their social institutions and their cultures.”

Sorokin was born in a rural area in the north of Russia. Both his parents died when he was young. He had to work in handicraft trades in order to go to the University of St. Petersburg where his intelligence was noted, and he received scholarships to carry out his studies in law and in the then new academic discipline of sociology. After obtaining his doctorate, he was asked to create the first Department of Sociology at the University of St. Petersburg. However, the study of the nature of society was a dangerous undertaking, and he was imprisoned three times by the Tsarist regime.

He was among the social reformers that led to the first phase of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He served as private secretary to Aleksandr Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government and Sorokin was the editor of the government newspaper. When Kerensky was overthrown by Lenin, Sorokin became part of a highly vocal anti-Bolshevik faction, leading to his arrest and condemnation to death in 1923. At the last moment, after a number of his cell mates had been executed, Lenin modified the penalty to exile, and Sorokin left the USSR, never to return. His revolutionary activities are well-described in his autobiography A Long Journey (1963).

Aleksandr Kerensky

He went to the United States and taught at the University of Minnesota (1924-1930) where he carried out important empirical studies on social mobility, especially rural to urban migration. These studies were undertaken at a time when sociology was becoming increasingly recognized as a specific discipline. Sorokin was invited to teach at Harvard University where the Department of Social Ethics was transformed into the Department of Sociology with Sorokin as its head. He continued teaching sociology at Harvard until his retirement in 1955 when the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was created so that he could continue his research and writing.

Of the three pillars that make up society − personality, culture, and social structure − personality may be the easiest to modify. Therefore, he turned his attention to how a loving or altruistic personality could be developed. He noted that in slightly different terms: love, compassion, sympathy, mercy, benevolence, reverence, Eros, Agape and mutual aid − all affirm supreme love as the highest moral value and its imperatives as the universal and perennial moral commandments. He stressed the fact that an ego-transcending altruistic transformation is not possible without a corresponding change in the structure of one’s ego, values and norms of conduct. Such changes have to be brought about by the individual himself, by his own effortful thinking, meditation, volition and self-analysis. He was strongly attracted to yoga which acted on the body, mind, and spirit.

Sorokin believed that love or compassion must be universal if it were to provide a basis for social reconstruction. Partial love, he said, can be worse than indifference. “If unselfish love does not extend over the whole of mankind, if it is confined within one group − a given family, tribe, nation, race, religious denomination, political party, trade union, caste, social class or any part of humanity − in such an in-group altruism tends to generate an out-group antagonism. And the more intense and exclusive the in-group solidarity of its members, the more unavoidable are the clashes between the group and the rest of humanity.

Sorokin was especially interested in the processes by which societies change cultural orientations, particularly the violent societies he knew, the USSR and the USA. As he wrote renewal “demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values and the world at large. All this cannot be achieved without the incessant, strenuous active efforts on the part of every individual.”

Notes

For a biography see: B. V. Johnston, Pitirim A. Sorokin: An Intellectual Biography (University Press of Kansas, 1995)

For an overview of his writings see: Frank Cowell, History, Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to the Historical and Social Philosophy of Pitirim A. Sorokin (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)

For Sorokin’s late work on the role of altruism see: P. A. Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love (Boston, Beacon Press, 1954) A new reprint was published by Templeton Press in 2002

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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